'Humble' Woodcock praised

Tony Woodcock (Getty Images)
Tony Woodcock (Getty Images)

Wellington - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen described Tony Woodcock as "humble" player who does not like a lot of "fuss and bother" on Thursday but the prop will have to endure a bit of hoopla when he wins his 100th Test cap against Australia on Saturday.

Stoic might be better description for the 32-year-old, who appears uncomfortable in the media spotlight and prefers to let his performances on the field do the talking.

On Saturday, the loosehead may find himself leading the All Blacks onto the field at the Westpac Stadium for the Rugby Championship Test, a recognition from his team mates of the enormity of what he has achieved.

The man himself, however, while acknowledging the achievement in going where only Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu and the now retired Mils Muliaina have gone before, appeared to be taking it all in his stride.

"It's a huge achievement," he quietly told reporters when asked about joining the ranks of the All Blacks centurions.

"A proud moment and really excited to have the opportunity and for the body to hang in there this long and to have the trust of coaches.

"But it is just a normal Test match.

"We prepare the same and pretty much take it day-by-day."

Woodcock was once described by former Wallabies coach John Connolly as one of the most destructive loosehead props in the world and he has quietly achieved much in his 11-year Test career.

After making his debut in 2002 against Wales he did not feature again until 2004 but by 2005, and the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, he was firmly established as the first choice.

Woodcock was unable to single out too many memories from his career, although scoring the only try in the World Cup final in 2011 to help the home side to their second Webb Ellis triumph was clearly a highlight.

"There are heaps. I guess the obvious one was the World Cup," he said.

"But it has been unreal to play this many and after the game be in a pretty special group."

In many ways, Woodcock is a throwback to the stereotype of All Blacks forwards of earlier generations.

Quiet, naturally strong men who walked off the farm fresh from shearing or baling hay, pulled on an All Blacks jersey to play the Test, then were back on the farm on Monday.

Woodcock's entire career, however, has been in the explosive, power-dominated professional era.

And while he still works a farm north of Auckland, the scientific approach of All Blacks' strength and conditioning coach Nic Gill is very much part of his preparations.

"You have always got to keep training and doing what you need to do.

"Gilly sets the programme and you do what you have to," Woodcock said when asked if being raised on a farm had aided his training regime.

"You get through that and everything else is a bonus."

Woodcock earned praise from Hansen on Thursday, who singled out his athletic ability and mental toughness as this things that had helped him to such a long career.

"He's a better than average athlete for a front rower and he's very good around the park and is probably one of the mentally toughest blokes I have met.

"Most things don't phase him," Hansen said.

"He always puts the team first.

"He's quite a humble bloke and doesn't want a fuss and bother.

"He just wants to get out there and do his job and that epitomises his performance.

"A lot of the time you don't see what he does, but he does plenty so we are very proud of him."

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